(The word CAMP is locally pronounced Kemp in the posh Morningside area of Edinburgh)
The Lindsay Kemp Theatre Troupe last put on “Our Lady of the Flowers” late in 1970 at the Traverse Theatre Club in Edinburgh to a storm of critical praise. This production, which will be repeated during the Edinburgh Festival, is significantly different, and a whole lot more interesting for gay men.
I say gay men, because this is a mimed play about male homosexuals. The period is 1938 Paris; the visions are those of an old crone in prison who conjures up the most erotic imaginings as a means of self-stimulation and sexual release. The 1972 production does not falter in presenting these images to its audiences.
The scenes are linked by narrative (reader Lindsay Levy, London GWLG) which is the more interesting because it is read in a half drowsy monotone; a casual “nothing-shocks-one” voice. The play opens in a nunnery, where, in the half light we see mysterious figures. They are the nuns: mindless and aimless, desperate for erotic stimulation. Stimulation arrives in the form of Ian Oliver whose extraordinarily beautiful naked body is carried round the crypt. There is more than a passing allusion to a Christ-like figure. “The chosen one” – a lovely young youth — is stripped naked by the nuns and the two proceed to make symbolic love/sacrifice before the cross.
There are various scenes in the dives of pre-war Paris. One remarkable performance shows the two male lovers gazing into one another’s eyes quite oblivious to the vigorous, but appalling, acting of the cafe’s prostitutes. “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” can never be the same after the twists and enhancements given to it by the Kemp Troupe. The play’s ending is heartbreaking, and here we have the traditional outlook on the homosexual: it must all end in tragedy, in gore. But even this is carried off well – and is much appreciated by the older members in the audience.
The cast is 9 men 2 women. Lindsay Kemp and Orlando have shouted the triumph of physical homosexual eroticism, and have picked a cast of very attractive, visually stimulating men. Andrew Wilson of London GLF created the music sequences.